One of the most crucial responsibilities for a parent, guardian or caregiver is to maintain a safe and healthy home environment for children so that they feel secure and confident. That starts with making sure that children are protected from physical hazards. Consider these precautions.
Sleep Safe for Infants
The primary message for parents and others who care for infants to consider is "Remember the ABCs of Safe Sleep"—three critical measures to follow when it's time for an infant to go to bed.
- "A" is for Alone: Always let the baby sleep alone, never in a bed with another person where the baby could be smothered.
- "B" is for on the baby's Back: An infant should be placed to sleep on his or her back, not on his or her side or stomach.
- "C" is for Crib: Always put your child to sleep in a crib with only a firm mattress and tight-fitting sheet.
Childproof for Young Children
Most people think of home as a place of safety and security, but that’s not always the case for small children. Studies indicate that most childhood injuries occur in the home. However, many of these injuries can be prevented by taking a few simple and inexpensive precautions. Here are a few key childproofing guidelines
- Install outlet covers or plates on every single exposed outlet to help prevent electrocution. And avoid smaller covers, which can pose a choking hazard if pried loose.
- Use safety gates to protect your child from falling down steps or to keep them out of dangerous or high-traffic areas, such as the kitchen. Look for gates that can be secured to the wall, as opposed to “pressure gates.”
- Use safety latches and locks on all cabinets and drawers, as well as ovens and dishwashers. (Never store household cleaners and chemicals in lower-level cabinets—even if locked.)
- Unplug appliances—such as coffee makers and toaster ovens—when not in use and store them out of children’s reach.
Safely Store Medications and Chemicals
In your home, always keep potentially harmful items locked up and away from your child. Remember, the most common causes of poisoning among young children are cosmetics and personal care products, household cleaning products and pain relievers. Here are some other key guidelines to keep your children safe:
- Dispose of medications properly that you no longer need. Find a secure medication drop-off box near you.
- Keep cleaning products in their original containers and clearly labeled.
- Never put a potentially poisonous product in something other than its original container (such as a plastic soda bottle), where it could be mistaken for something harmless.
- Know which household products are poisonous.
- Lock up poisons out of children’s sight and reach. That includes e-cigarettes, which can lead to overexposure to nicotine.
Don’t Smoke in the Home or Around Kids
Thirdhand smoke refers to the chemicals from cigarette smoke, even long after smoking has stopped, that cling to soft surfaces and can be found on things that you touch, such as carpets, clothing and toys.
Whether you are young or old, healthy or sick, thirdhand smoke is dangerous.
People are exposed to the same chemicals found in tobacco smoke that are known to cause cancer. These tobacco toxins can get into the bodies of infants or toddlers through developing lungs. The chemicals build up and can cause learning problems.
Here are some guidelines for parents to protect their children’s health:
- Don’t allow anyone to smoke near your child. Ask smokers to wash their hands and change into smoke-free clothing before holding your baby.
- Do not smoke or allow others to smoke in your home or car.
- Use a smoke-free day care center and babysitters who are nonsmokers.
- Do not take your child to restaurants or other indoor public places that allow smoking.
- Try to keep your child out of the homes of smokers.
Test for Radon
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas produced by the breakdown of uranium in rocks and soils. Radon gas has been identified as the second-leading cause of lung cancer, second only to cigarette smoking, and is responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year in the U.S.
Radon gas is tasteless, colorless and odorless, and the only way to know if it is in your home is to test for it.
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) considers radon to be a very serious problem in our state. No matter where you live in Tennessee, there is the potential for radon to enter your home. All homes should be tested for radon, and it’s easy to do.
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) operates a statewide indoor Radon Program as part of the Office of Sustainable Practices. It offers a number of services and assistance such as test kits for homeowners.
Prepare for Emergencies
Be better prepared for emergencies and natural disasters by planning ahead with your family. The first steps include creating a family emergency communication and evacuation plan, and an emergency supply kit.
Emergencies can happen at any time. It's important to make a plan and discuss it with your family now so that you will know what to do, how to evacuate your home safely (in case of fire or flood), how to find one another and how to communicate.
The contents of a well-stocked disaster kit vary depending on the needs of your household, but there are certain essentials for any kit. Before you consider adding comfort or convenience items, be sure you have these basics on hand:
- Water—at least a gallon per person per day, for three to five days
- Nonperishable food (such as dried fruit or peanut butter)—enough per person for three to five days
- Pet food and water
- Baby supplies (formula, diapers)
- Weather radio (battery-powered or hand-crank) and extra batteries
- First-aid kit
- Prescription medications and glasses
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- Dust mask (to filter contaminated air)
- Plastic sheeting and duct tape
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties (for personal sanitation)
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Cellphone (with charger, inverter or solar charger)
- Matches in a waterproof container
- Toothbrush, toothpaste, soap
- Paper plates, plastic cups and utensils, paper towels
- Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person
- Whistle (to call for help)
- Manual can opener
- Local maps
- Extra batteries